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B-24J 42-99991 – scroll down for photos of the crash site
The image above shows the approach from Anglesey. The B-24 struck the hill on the right and skimmed across the moor, before coming to a halt and burning out.
7th January 1944. American bomber B-24J Liberator 42-99991 ‘Bachelors Baby’ had started the last leg of a long journey from Kansas to Norfolk but crashed within a few minutes of take off from RAF Valley on Anglesey.
On board were 10 crew members, one passenger and a dog. Two of the crew, the passenger and the dog died at the scene, while 2 more crew members later died of their injuries.
The B-24 had made the journey to Britain from the USA via the South Atlantic ferry route which took in landings at Florida, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Brazil, then across the Atlantic to Dakar and then Morocco before arriving at Anglesey.
Below; Liberator 42-99991 (at least I understand it is 42-99991). Possibly taken on the journey from Kansas to Britain.
For this last part of the journey to RAF Watton, the crew were joined by a passenger, Technical Sergeant Nicholas Cennemo who had missed his own flight and was hitching a ride. The dog on board was the crew’s mascot, a fox terrier pup named Booster.
Below; photo showing 4 of the crew L-R Sgt Nichols, Staff Sgt Offutt, Sgt Alexander with Booster in his jacket, and Sgt Nieglos. This photo is from “No Landing Place: More Tales of Aircraft Crashes in Snowdonia volume 2” by Edward Doylerush and is credited to Hal Alexander
Below; Another crew photo. This is from “No Landing Place: A Guide to Aircraft Crashes in Snowdonia” by Edward Doylerush (the main source of info for this piece) and is credited to A.J.Schultz.
L-R Back – Schultz, Davis, Boyer, Erts,
L-R Front – Offutt, Tymczak, Nieglos, Lorenz, Nichols, Alexander.
The crew were not entirely in their normal positions for this short journey; 2nd Lt Erts was on the floor of the flight deck, according to Doylerush, along with Sgt Nieglos who was holding Booster. Technical Sergeant Cennemo and ball turret gunner Sergeant Nichols were in the waist section of the B-24 along with waist gunner Sergeant Lorenz.
Below; Diagram showing crew positions
The instructions to the crew were to follow the escort, a B-17G Flying Fortress piloted by F/O L L Dorrie, to Watton in Norfolk. The conditions were poor as they took off at 13.45 with low cloud just 300 feet above sea level and the hills of north Wales completely shrouded by clouds and rain.
Second Lieutenant Adrian Schultz, pilot of the B-24, had orders to fly in formation with the B-17. However shortly after take-off, he began to lose sight of the escort in the low cloud. F/O Dorrie in the leading aircraft instructed him to hold altitude and course which would have taken them along the coast over Rhyl to Chester, but 2nd Lt Schultz replied that he did not know the course and radioed back saying he would meet up with the B-17 above the clouds (the B-17 had already broken through and was above the clouds) and the Liberator began a slow climb.
Bachelors Baby never broke through the clouds to meet up with the escort. F/O Dorrie in the B-17 escort circled Conwy Bay at 500 feet, calling 2nd Lt. Schultz on the same frequency for 15 minutes before returning to Valley where the tower continued to call 42-99991.
Below; My map showing the places mentioned in this narrative
The B-24 was seen by people in the town of Llanfairfechan flying low over the town. Someone on the B-24 called out “look out for the white house!” as the bomber clipped the roof of Plas Heulog on the outskirts of the town and took off the tops of some trees.
Below; Plas Heulog
Second Lieutenant Schultz urgently put on more power and tried to climb, but moments later, and with Booster reportedly screeching uncontrollably, the bomber hit a craggy outcrop of a hill called Clip yr Orsedd.
The rocky outcrop (referred to in Doylerush as Mynydd Bach) below Yr Orsedd. The B-24 struck here before becoming airborne again
The impact with the hill tore off the bomb-bay doors and stuff from the aircraft was strewn across the hillside. However, the aircraft carried on flying, albeit without the pilot in control, and the bomber skimmed the moor for 500 metres before coming to earth in a 100 metre skid, sliding to a halt below the hill of Moelfre, turning as it did so.
There would have been more survivors had a fire not broken out, fuel in the tanks in the wings pouring into the waist section of the aircraft.
Second Lieutenant Schultz spotted a hole torn in the cockpit floor and he and 2nd Lt Erts hauled the badly injured co-pilot Second Lieutenant Davis out of the wrecked aircraft. 2nd Lt Erts was himself injured and had to lay down on the moor, trying to keep out of the way of ammunition which was cooking off in the fire. Second Lieutenant Schultz however, returned to the aircraft to try to help S/Sgt Offutt.
The engineer / turret gunner had been trapped when the gun turret ring gear fell on him. His clothes on fire, Staff Sergeant Offutt screamed at the pilot to shoot him.
Doylerush reports, after interviewing Adrian Schultz in 1978, that he had tried to lift the ring which trapped S/Sgt Offutt but it was so hot it burned through his gloves. He then reached for his pistol but at that point an explosion blasted him from the wreck. It is hoped the same explosion killed Staff Sergeant Offutt. A different account has it that 2nd Lt Schultz did not have his pistol with him, and that he did not know whether he would have been able to shoot his friend even if he had.
It would appear that Sgt Nichols and passenger Technical Sergeant Cennemo also died in the fire in the waist section of the aircraft. Sergeant Lorenz had his legs in the fire and his clothes had all been burnt off. He was pulled from the wreckage but died of his wounds at the Caernarvonshire and Anglesey Hospital in Bangor the day after, as did Second Lieutenant Davis, the co-pilot.
Doylerush says that Booster was killed in the initial impact with Yr Orsedd.
Somehow Sergeants Tymczak and Nieglos managed to get away from the burning wreck and survived.
2nd Lt. Boyer had thought he was the only survivor as he clambered from the wreck when he heard 2nd Lt Erts, who was trying to hide from the exploding ammunition. The bombardier then heard Sgt Alexander trapped in the rear turret and went to help him. Once Sgt Alexander was free, 2nd Lt. Boyer turned his attention to Sgt Lorenz, and hauled him out of the wreck, though as noted above, the waist gunner died of his injuries shortly afterwards.
Second Lieutenant Boyer then set off in what he thought, in the low cloud covering the moor and the confusion of the crash, was the line of flight back to the coast and the town they had just passed. However, the Liberator had turned in its last moments and the direction 2nd Lt Boyer set off on was not west to the coast, but south east and into the mountains. See map above.
Below; 2nd Lt Boyer left the crash site to find help but headed further into the hills
Although he could not see much of the terrain around him, 2nd Lt. Boyer tramped across the moor in the rain and low cloud and across the pass between Tal y Fan and Foel Lwyd, a mile and half from the crash site. He walked 4 miles before he eventually met someone who could help him. His route took him over the pass and down to a holiday cottage at Hafoty Gwyn which had been locked up for the winter. 2nd Lt Boyer broke in and lit a fire to dry himself out.
Below; Hafoty Gwyn as it looks now
Having warmed himself a little, he left some money on a table, and continued further along the road, climbing a dry stone wall upon seeing a farmhouse. Here at Waen Newydd the Roberts family provided some dry clothes before taking him to Llandudno General Hospital.
Below; Second Lieutenant Boyer would have climbed this wall to get to the farmhouse at Waen Newydd where he at last found some help
At the crash site, people from Llanfairfechan had now arrived. A Mr Robert Jones and Mr Ellis Lewis found Sergeant Alexander lying some distance from the burning wreck and carried him back down to the farm at Blaen Llwyn.
Meanwhile, apparently unknown to them (and not surprising given the vile weather, the fire and the ammunition exploding all around), a policeman also arrived at the scene. PC Hughes Parry found 2nd Lt Schultz who started to head off to find help. The policeman also appears to have become disoriented and together he and the injured pilot tried to find a way off the hill and back to civilisation. Slipping and sliding down a muddy hillside, they eventually arrived at Graig Llywd Hall (then a school).
2nd Lt Schultz was taken from there to the hospital at Bangor.
Below; Graig Llywd Hall
The rest of the crew were supported off the hillside and down to Blaen Llwyn by men from the Penmaenmawr quarry.
Below; The farmhouse at Blaen Llwyn. The hill directly above the farm in this photo is the outcrop which the B-24 first struck. See map above.
Second Lieutenant Adrian Schultz, pilot; injured, survived
Second Lieutenant Arthur Davis, co-pilot; died of wounds 8 January 1944
Second Lieutenant Norman Boyer, bombardier, injured, survived
Second Lieutenant Julian Erts, navigator; injured, survived
Staff Sergeant Samuel Louis Offutt, engineer; killed
Staff Sergeant John Tymczak, radio operator; injured, survived
Sergeant William Nichols, ball turret gunner, killed
Sergeant Joseph Nieglos, waist gunner; injured, survived
Sergeant William Lorenz, waist gunner; died of wounds 8 January 1944
Sergeant Harold Alexander, rear turret gunner; injured, survived
Technical Sergeant Nicholas Cennemo, passenger; killed
Booster, crew mascot; killed and buried at the site
The Aircraft Accident Report
2nd Lt. Schultz had been briefed to land at the nearest aerodrome or return to Valley in the event of severe weather or difficulties and the accident investigation noted the accident “could have been avoided had the pilot maintained his same course or turned out to sea rather than toward the mountain range.” However, both 2nd Lt Schultz’ testimony and that of the escort pilot record that the former did not know his course, his instructions had been just to follow the escort. The cause of the crash was put down to a “faulty and careless operation of aircraft” and a “momentary lapse of mental efficiency” on the part of the pilot.
The crash site now
Below; Looking down to the crash site from the hill of Moelfre. The aircraft came in from the upper right corner of the frame. In an area rich in neolithic remains, the crash site has itself the appearance of a prehistoric circle with the two monuments in the centre.
The crash site is at grid reference SH 71560 74342.
At the crash site there is very little remaining to show what happened here. Some screws, bits of wire and lumps of molten metal remain on the scar on the moor which is overlooked by the two memorials to those who died here.
Below; The largest piece of debris I found near to the crash site.
These are some smaller fragments, typical of all that is left now at the site
Below; Booster, the fox terrier pup from Kansas, is buried here.
Below; This memorial plaque was placed at the site in 1980 and was restored in July 2018. A number of the crew returned to this spot to pay their respects to their lost comrades including Adrian Schultz, Hal Alexander and Julian Erts.
This photo of the restored plaque is kindly provided by Greg Wood and is used with his permission. (The photo further below shows how it looked before it was restored).